SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — The Sept. 26 Midwest Honor Flight trip to Washington, D.C. brought veterans to a number of landmarks in a relatively short amount of time in northern Virginia and D.C. before they returned to Sioux Falls, where they received an enthusiastic reception. Support isn’t just available from a cheering crowd; if a veteran is struggling with PTSD, depression or thoughts of suicide, resources are within reach.
“It’s got to be a nation-wide effort to do more, to listen more, to talk more and to help our veterans get the help that they need,” Navy veteran Rodney Smith said.
Shortly after cheers rang out at the Sioux Falls Arena, Smith shared how mental illness has shaken his world.
“My brother, who was a Green Beret in Vietnam, he made it home, but he didn’t make it,” said Smith, who lives in the Chester, S.D. area. “In 1976, he committed suicide. I always felt guilty about that because I wasn’t there to be the one to talk him out of it.”
His brother Duane was 26 years old. Rodney describes his brother as giving and “fun-loving.”
“After I came home from Vietnam and being a veteran of there, he still wouldn’t talk to me,” Smith said. “He couldn’t talk to me about it, so it was that horrific that he couldn’t even share it with a blood brother, let alone a military brother.”
Army veteran LeRoy Madsen of Pierre, who like Smith was among the honored veterans on the trip, spoke with KELOLAND News near the National Mall about mental health.
“You never know how war’s going to affect an individual,” Madsen said. “It could be mental; it could be physical. You have no idea until you deal with it yourself.”
“You’ve got to find a friend that will be the one for you,” Smith said. “And that’s the American Legion’s program now, is to ‘Be the One.'”
The Veterans Crisis Line is one resource that’s available every hour of the day: just four digits away.
“Dial 988 and then dial 1,” Smith said.